Dotwatchers Assemble! Bikes of Blaenau 600

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The Blaenau 600 is a new bikepacking event, 600km long with over 11,000m of climbing. Blaenau translates roughly as ‘remote uplands’, though it starts in a fairly accessible place and as a loop you return back to base –  perhaps making it less of an all-in intimidating affair than something that starts in Cornwall and ends the Highlands of Scotland? Or indeed, in Canada and ends at the Mexican border.

The Blaenau 600 follows a fixed route, is self supported, and has no prizes or podiums. It starts at 9am on Saturday 11th June 2022, and while there is no time limit, there’s a finishers pizza party on Tuesday 14th at 6pm to aim for. Dotwatchers step this way. Here are some of this year’s 30 riders, and what they’ll be taking with them.

Ben Yarnold

Custom frame + fork (Teme Frameworks), custom front rack for Wizard Works bag

Age: 29
Location: Burford, Shropshire
Cap number: 11

Main items of kit:

  • Front bag – sleep kit, warm gearFrame bag – food
  • Top tube bags – spares + food
  • Hip pack – arm/knee warmers, gilet, extra water capacity + food
  • Navigation is Garmin Etrex30x (+spare). Fenix HM65R Headtorch + spare battery for lights

Would you say you’re packing light for speed, packing for comfort or taking everything you own “just in case”: Fairly light

Rich Skidmore

Titus Goldrush, original spec

Age: 47
Location: A Shropshire lad living in Penrhyndeudraeth, Gwynedd, North Wales.
Cap Number:1

Main items of kit: I’m an ambassador for a bag company called @CamelChops and have had a custom top tube bag made. As this is my first full on bivvy type event I’m trying to carry everything but also be an ‘ultra’ rider. As for clothing I’m using @wolfpac cargo shorts and shirt. I find the shorts amazingly comfortable and the cargo pockets so useful. I will also be using @Brav socks, their colourful designs can lift even the darkest mood and I’m sure add at least 5km an hour* (*not scientifically proven).

Space saving hack you’re most proud of: I accidentally found sleeping with small soren loaves in your cargo shorts will flatten them. By doing this I can fit 4 in to the space taken by 1!! I also use a bar that bolts onto my handlebars and gives me space for my Wahoo bolt,lights and bell.

What kit/bike or route panic is keeping you awake at night: Hope to be tired enough I won’t care.

Ross Mallen

Kinesis Tripster ATR

Age: 37
Location: Buckinghamshire, England.
Cap number: 29

Saracen Ariel 50E Elite First look

Bike: Kinesis Tripster ATR, GRX groupset with a 40T chainring upfront paired with a 42-11 rear cassette. Hope Fortus rims and Pro 4 hubs make up the wheelset with the exposure dynamo built wheel being subbed in for these longer rides. The bars, seatpost and stem are all Thomson and the stem is capped off by with a custom sugar skull Kapz which says ‘it was your idea’ just as a reminder for when it the riding gets tough. 

Main items of kit: Endura pretty much makes up my clothing, I’m using their GV500 range for shorts, jersey and warmer jacket (which packs down really small as a bonus). Rain jacket is also Endura, again packs down very small, but ultimately hoping it stays in the bag.

On bags…..Restrap make up my luggage carrying capacity for this adventure. With a 14l saddle pack, 4.5l frame bag and their 7l race aero bar bag (I prefer the out front rather than the ‘across bar’ fit).

Sleeping system is in the bar bag and consists of bivvy, sleeping bag and lightweight inflatable mat. Spare clothing, bike lock, wash kit, medical supplies are in the secured in the saddle bag with the frame bag then housing the food, powerbanks and the ‘stuff’ you always want quick access to. Bike spares and tooling are in a bottle under the downtube.

Space saving hack you’re most proud of? I’m pretty ruthless with my kit packing which saves space, but it also creates that constant worry of ‘what have I forgotten or left out’. Think the best ‘saving hack’ is the exposure dynamo and lights, it’s on the bike and just sorts itself giving constant light. One less thing to worry about. 

Would you say you’re packing light for speed, packing for comfort or taking everything you own “just in case”? Light for speed which has its pros and cons for sure. 

What kit/bike or route panic is keeping you awake at night? Water water and water. I’ve planned a fairly detailed schedule which show there are times you might arrive at a potential resupply location when everything is shut. I think water will be a constant thought during the event.

Steve Darby

Ragley Trigg Gen1

Age: 48
Location: Kidderminster, Worcs.
Cap number: 16

Bike: Ragley Trigg Gen1, SRAM Apex 1×11, GK 27.5 x 1.9 tyres.

Main items of kit: Rapha adventure cycling kit, Combination of Restrap & Carradice bags. Tarp, sleeping bag and mat for wild adventures and bothies. Wahoo for navigation.                

Space saving hack you’re most proud of: Finding space for malt whisky.

Would you say you’re packing light for speed, packing for comfort or taking everything, you own “just in case”: All of the above and if all fails, I have whiskey.

What kit/bike or route panic is keeping you awake at night: not finishing or a major mechanical.

Anthony Green

Yeti ASR C 2015

Age: 56
Location: Church Stretton, Shropshire
Cap number: 14

Bike: Main “upgrades” are the the Vitoria Terrino XC Race tires, which is my attempt to minimize rolling resistance and get my bike more viable for the road/gravel sections My main worry is if they will take the abuse of some of the rockier sections, but having sent them down Minton Batch and ZigZig a few times I feel a bit more confident.

The only other really special components are the SQLab inner bar ends which are just brilliant. They give you something like the feeling of riding the hoods and provide that much-needed variation in grip position.

Kit: I’m waiting to see what the weather forecast is for kit choice, but either way, I’ll be wearing endura humvee 3/4s. The reason for this is that as a Muslim I’m going to have to stop and pray and I need something that covers my knees and I don’t want to have to take another garment.. I’ll be taking a spare pair of inner shorts, lightweight waterproof and maybe my gore waterproof pants if it’s looking wet. I’m relying on a single pair of the legendary DeFeet WoolieBoolie cycling socks. I’m wearing a roadie helmet because I overheat and sweat a lot. 

Navigation will be courtesy of Garmin 1030 (with power extender which will also emergancy charge my phone/light etc..) and Garmin Fenix 6 (plus iPhone with OS maps preloaded)

I’ve learned my lesson from previous trips that it’s so easy to take a lot of stuff you don’t need and will never use. I am aiming to be as minimalist and as lightweight as possible.

Space saving hack you’re most proud of? My main hack has to be the Katadyn BeFree Water Filtration bottle which saves taking lots of bottles of water and actually allow a decent rate of water flow. In terms of sleeping kit I’m going to hammock it with Cocoon lightwieght hammock set up and a dyneema tarp, with an alpkit Cloud Cover goose down quilt as an under quilt with a Marmot goose down sleeping bag all coming in at around 1.5kg!

What kit/bike or route panic is keeping you awake at night? Not much keeps me up at night but this will be unlike anything I’ve done before. My main worry is just the sheer length of the stages and the distance I’m going to have to cover to complete within my goal of four days. The only other thing is learning to “trust” my GPS! Getting lost despite my GPS and charging ahead following what I think is the right way, despite what my Garmin is trying to show/tell me is all too common for me on my rides generally. If I do it too often on this ride though I suspect I will get really demotivated. 

The only other thing I’m really concerned about are cramps which seem to hit me during any long ride.

Matt Morris

Orbea Terra M20 carbon

Age: 47
Location:  Ludlow, Shropshire
Cap number: 04

Bike:  Orbea Terra M20 carbon – ‘Trigger’s broom’ groupset mix, mostly Shimano, but a bit of everything!, Redshift Shockstop stem, Deda clip on tri bars.

Kit: This will be my longest event to date and as a result there’s been some major dithering on strategy and kit selection! Torn between packing fast and light to get round as quickly as possible, or actually enjoying the ride and making the most of some time off from work (and the kids!). So, I’ve opted for the latter and am taking a tent, rather than a bivvy and aiming for a few hours kip at the end of each day. Hopefully that way I’m giving my body just enough rest, but still back in time for the pizza! That all might change of course, we’ll see how things pan out! 

  • Ride gear: Pearl Izumi cargo shorts, Brooks short sleeve jersey, short sleeve base layer, arm warmers, Mavic Crossmax Boa shoes, Rapha rain jacket
  • Sleeping: Forclaz one man lightweight tent, lightweight 2 season sleeping bag, OEX sleep mat
  • Navigation: Garmin Edge Explore, Garmin Extrex 22x
  • Bags:
    • Apidura Expedition 14l seat pack: spare shorts, jersey, base layer, socks, winter jacket (mainly to sleep in this if it’s chilly), tech t-shirt and tracksters for sleeping, gloves & overshoes (it’s Wales!). Lightweight stove/mug/spork
    • Apidura Expedition 14l handlebar bag: tent + poles, sleeping bag, sleep mat, midge net
    • Apidura Race long top tube bag – enough space for days worth of food
    • Apidura Race frame bag: Dynaplugs, multitool, power bank, charger cables, spare tyre sealant, cafe lock, micro first aid kit, midge cream, sunblock (optimistic!), tablets, toothbrush
    • Apidura downtube bag: spare tubes x2, tools/spares
  • Camelback Chase bike vest – handy extra space for stocking up on food/water (mainly for the long section after Machynlleth). Plus will stuff a couple of freeze dried meal packs in here so that it I know I’ll have food options at the end the day if I’m miles from anywhere. 
  • Lights: ChilliTech – 5200mha front light with external frame mounted battery(12hrs runtime @400lumens), Generic Amazon front light (6hrs runtime@250 lumens) as backup, 2x rear light (also from Amazon, 10hrs runtime for each)

Space saving hack you’re most proud of: Not really a hack as such, but I love the Apidura long top tube bag – I can easily get enough food in there for a full day’s riding, which frees up valuable space elsewhere

Would you say you’re packing light for speed, packing for comfort or taking everything you own “just in case”:  As mentioned above, this was a my biggest dither by far! So I’ve kind of gone for comfort and a plan for if it p*sses down! If the weather forecast suddenly predicts warm dry weather, I might trim things down a bit!

What kit/bike or route panic is keeping you awake at night: I’m not too worried about the route – I know it’ll be tough going in places but that’s half the ‘fun’ (famous last words!) My biggest unknown is that although I love camping, I’ve not solo wild camped before – so that’s something I’m looking forward to whilst at the same time trying to put thoughts of axe-murderers, Welsh werewolves and the movie Deliverance out of my mind! 🙂

Jac Lewis

Cannondale Scalpel

Age: 25
Location: North Wales

Your bike: I have a Cannondale Scalpel. I installed Schwable Racing Ralph’s especially for this and in terms of bags I’m using the Tailfin aeropack and a Rapha bar bag. 

Your main items of kit (including what you’re wearing and why, sleeping kit, navigation etc., and also how you’ve packed it): I’m not planning on sleeping so I havent packed my bivvy or sleeping bag. Navigation I’m using my Wahoo elemnt bolt and kit wise I’ll be wearing my Rapha cargo bibs (leg pockets are amazing!) and depending on forecast either my Rapha pro team long or short sleeve jersey. I’ll also pack my Rapha shake dry. 

Space saving hack you’re most proud of: Because I’m not planning on sleeping I’ve not packed a bivvy but incase of emergencies I’ve got a foil blanket that I can sleep in a ditch with which is pretty light and space saving 😂

Would you say you’re packing light for speed, packing for comfort or taking everything you own “just in case”: I’m packing light for sure… Essentials only and no frills. Food,water, power and navigation with a few spares 

What kit/bike or route panic is keeping you awake at night: My Wahoo dying makes me a bit nervous! Crossing my fingers there aren’t any tech issues because my sense of direction is appalling 😂

Steve Chapman

Teme Frameworks

Age: 39
Location: Clee Hill, Shropshire
Cap number: 22

Bike: Custom frame (Teme Frameworks), Travers carbon fork, Shimano XT drivertrain, Raceface cranks, Ergon grips, Ortlieb bags.

Kit: Looking at the forecast I’ll mostly be in bib shorts and short sleeve jersey with a windproof Endura gilet. When it gets chillier in the evening I have arm/leg warmers. For the wet I have an Endura MT500 jacket and some Waterproof shorts. I’ll have an Endura helmet with a Fenix HM65R head torch mounted directly to the helmet.

Space saving hack you’re most proud of: I think the thing I’m most proud of, not necessarily for saving space but definitely saving faff is the head torch. I’ve just started selling Fenix products and I absolutely love them. The light is mounted direct to my helmet, can trickle charge direct from a battery pack, it also has a swappable battery which has a direct USB into the battery so you can charge your spare battery whilst still using the light. Or can charge the battery whilst in the light using a USB-C cable. It’s the solution to ultra-racing lighting I’ve been looking for.

Would you say you’re packing light for speed, packing for comfort or taking everything you own “just in case”: I’m packing light for sure, it’s a total experiment and it’s making me a little bit anxious, but I’ve never gone light on one of these things and want to see what’s possible for me. My sleep equipment relies on me sleeping for a short time and relying on heat I’ve built up on the bike. It’s not an all-night camp out setup by any stretch of the imagination.

What kit/bike or route panic is keeping you awake at night: See above 😬

Jon Endres

Orbea Terra

Age: 31
Location: Worcestershire, UK
Cap number: 15


Bike: Orbea Terra, Hope/DT Swiss wheels, custom bags by Collins Cycle Works

Kit: Wahoo Element for navigation, going for a lightweight bivvy and quilt combo. Also carrying a sleeping mat from Alpkit and pillow from Decathlon. I’m going for comfortable nights (hopefully). An example of this is I’m bring my Aeropress for fresh coffee in the mornings.

Space saving hack you’re most proud of: I decided to grow to the ridiculous height of 6ft5in so I could fit a gigantic frame bag on my bike.

Would you say you’re packing light for speed, packing for comfort or taking everything you own “just in case”: Comfort all the way. 

What kit/bike or route panic is keeping you awake at night: The lack of shops compared to the size of my appetite.

Leon Aldridge

Cannondale Topstone 1

Age: 31
Location: Bewdley
Cap number: 07

Kit

  • Full Pas Normal Studio summer kit with Sidi Fluro shoes and Rudy Project tour de France tinted shades to slip stream through that gravel in peak style and in hope that it’s sunny.
  • Sealskinz waterproof socks, gloves and packable Peter Storm cagoule / trousers for washout conditions. 
  • Patagonia nano puff jacket, Balaclava and Silk night mask for that prime sleepy time.
  • Sea to summit ultra light sleeping matt, 2008 Vango sleeping bag and a Hunka bivvy for the portable crib.
  • Two Ankor Power banks, 2 Lezyne Front and Rear Lights, ELEMNT Bolt and iPhone 12 mini for the support. 
  • All packed into a Colin cycles custom frame bag and Alpkit airlock bar/ saddle bag on an exo-rail. 

Space saving hack you’re most proud of: Colin Cycles custom frame bag – Available in bright yellow so you can see the space savings too! 

Would you say you’re packing light for speed, packing for comfort or taking everything you own “just in case”: I’m packing heat .. in the form of a super nice Cannondale sourced by Epic Cycles. 

What kit/bike or route panic is keeping you awake at night: The fear of missing the free Pizza Party. 

Max Harper

Surly midnight special with carbon Brother Cycles forks

Age: 32
Location: Richards Castle
Cap number: 10

Bike and setup: Surly midnight special with carbon Brother Cycles forks, DT Swiss Wheels and Garbaruk long cage mod and a lovely 50T cassette. Bike bags mostly by good friend Collins Cycle Works housing bivvy bag and sleeping bag and lots of snacks and sweets.

Would you say you’re packing light for speed, packing for comfort or taking everything you own “just in case”: Packing for mostly comfort with a touch of speed! Looking forward to an adventure! 

Dave Hawkins

Orange Clockwork

Age: 32
Location: Monmouth (UK)
Cap number: 18

Bike: Orange Clockwork 120 hardtail with a Stans Arch 29er wheelset. Very original combo of Mezcal/Barzo 2.25” tyres. Rockshox forks, dropper, Hope X2 brakes and 1×11 SRAM XO gearing with an oval chainring. Probably a bit much for this route, but it’s the bike I have and I have so much fun on it! I’ve fitted SQlabs inner bar ends to help out on road stretches, a bell of course and Hammerhead Karoo 2 for nav.

Kit:  My roadie origins are betrayed by my riding kit. Attacus jersey, Assos shorts, Rapha raincape, Lake shoes. No shame, it’s all top stuff and that’s important on a ride this rigorous. For sleep, I’m taking a quite appropriate Alpkit Elan bivvy and a Sea to Summit UL pad, and wearing an Alpkit down jacket and PHD down trousers. This stuff is split between my fork bags along with an inflatable pillow and a precautionary midge headnet. Tail pack carries layers, and frame pack for tools, electronics, food and whatnot. Grab bags for more food and a Dakine hip pack for water and valuables.

Space saving hack you’re most proud of:  Insulated layers are more useful and pack down better than a sleeping bag, so I’m fond of my ebay bargain PHD trousers

Would you say you’re packing light for speed, packing for comfort or taking everything you own “just in case”: I’m happy this strikes the right balance for me considering distance, weather, terrain and resupply options.

What kit/bike or route panic is keeping you awake at night:  My back can throw up issues. I expect I’ll be hiking more readily than the other riders as I try to avoid overdoing it on steeper uphills. I comfortably managed the Badger Divide with this approach recently so hopefully I’m okay here! It can be a frustrating limitation, but routing through the Elan Valley would be no hardship if needed to finish by Tuesday.

Andy Turner

Trek Supercaliber 9.8 GX

Age:50
Location: High Peak, Derbyshire.
Cap no: 5

Kit: Going with summer kit as the forecast looks favourable.  This will be jersey and shorts from Tactic. Sleeping kit is a Mountain Equipment down jacket and Mountain equipment bivi bag. The sleeping pad is staying at home. These will all be packed in a Roswheel saddle pack. Roswheel toptube bag for snacks. Restrap handlebar bag for essentials like battery pack, headtorch, lock and toiletries.

What kit/bike or route panic is keeping you awake at night: The thing that most concerns as with most endurance events is resupply. Going with plenty of SIS Beta fuel and fig rolls.

Webster Wickham

Travers RussTi Evo

Age: 56
Location: Peterchurch, Herefordshire
Cap number: 24

Bike: Travers RussTi Evo, Hunt 29MTB dynamo disc wheels, Vittoria Mezcal 2.35 tyres, Fox 32 fork, Tailfin ALLOY aeropack, Bar Yak  expedition bar and bag, apidura frame bag and Straight Cut top tube bag. KLITE front light, exposure head torch. Navigation via Garmin 66i and Hammerhead Karoo

Kit: Lightwave Stormchaser Bivi, NeoAir mat, down jacket and trousers for sleeping out if I can’t find anywhere inside! 

Phil Weaver

Brother Mehteh

Age: 60
Location:  Ludlow, Shropshire
Cap number:  23

Bike: Brother Mehteh with Shimano GRX 1x and Mavic Allroad wheels. Fitted with tubeless Pirelli Cinturato M 700×45 tyres, and a trusty Brooks Cambium saddle. 

Kit: Ride kit will be Pearl Izumi Expedition (cargo) bibshorts, Rapha merino short sleeve jersey, merino base layer, Lazer Genesis helmet.  Backed up with DeFeet arm and knee warmers, plus gloves, mainly for night use, and a Gore GTX jacket.  Will probably also take a lightweight but warm long sleeve top and maybe a gilet, but that’s weather dependent.  Sleep system is Alpkit Hunka bivvy, Alpkit Cloudbase mat and a Sea-to-Summit Thermalite liner.  Navigation is Garmin eTrex 22x, as it runs for hours and uses easily replaceable AA batteries, with a Garmin Edge 530 as back up.  Sleep kit and spare clothing will go in an Ortlieb 11l seat pack, electronics and toiletries/personal care (suntan lotion, chammy creams, water purifying tabs etc) will go in a small Apidura Race frame bag. Food will be split between an Ortlieb accessory pack on the bars or an Apidura top tube bag.  Spare tubes and tools will go in a tool bottle. 

Space saving hack you’re most proud of: Maybe the Sea-to-Summit Thermalite liner, as it is tiny compared to a sleeping bag, and resists water/mud well.  But we’ll see if it’s warm enough!

Would you say you’re packing light for speed, packing for comfort or taking everything you own “just in case”: Packing for a balance of comfort and minimal stuff for ease of bike handling, rather than speed. I tend to take more than I need and carry it round unnecessarily, so have resisted that hard, but I’m also planning to break briefly for sleep/rest so have gone as minimal as possible while still offering some warmth/comfort.

What kit/bike or route panic is keeping you awake at night: punctures! I am carrying a fair few puncture related spares…

Molly Weaver

Salsa Warbird

Age: 28
Location: Bristol, UK.
Cap number: 3

Bike: Salsa Warbird with Shimano GRX 1x and Stayer All-Road carbon wheels. Fitted with tubeless Pirelli Cinturato M 700×45 tyres, Redshift stem, and TT bars.

Your main items of kit (including what you’re wearing and why, sleeping kit, navigation etc., and also how you’ve packed it): My ride kit will be Pearl Izumi Expedition (cargo) bibshorts, Rapha trail t-shirt, Mavic Cosmic Gravel shoes, and Lazer Genesis helmet. I will also be taking a thin waterproof jacket, Albion insulated jacket, leg warmers, and a Rapha windproof long sleeved t-shirt. Sleep system is just an Alpkit Kloke Bivvy. I will be navigating using my tried, tested, and trusted Garmin eTrex 32x, and a Garmin Explore as back up. My bivvy, most of my spare clothing, a few tools, and toiletries, will go in an Ortlieb 11l seat pack. All of my food will go in the Ortlieb accessory pack on the front. 

Spare tubes and tools will go in a tool bottle. I will also be carrying a Camelbak Solstice Low Rider with my wallet, space for more food and water if needed, chargers and cables, medication, and chammy butter/sudocrem for when I inevitably need it.

Space saving hack you’re most proud of: I’ve jettisoned my usual sleep system in favour of taking a few more layers of extra clothing. I’m not planning on pausing for long at night, so these bits can double as ride clothing if it gets a bit chillier.

Would you say you’re packing light for speed, packing for comfort or taking everything you own “just in case”: I’m packing fairly light, erring on the side of speed (and safety). I’m going very minimalist on some bits of kit, and using this is a chance to test how well I cope with that, but heavy on what I see as the ‘essentials’.

What kit/bike or route panic is keeping you awake at night: mechanicals/punctures. At best they’re just really annoying, and at worst they end the ride. I’m not the best at fixing things trailside, so it’s always a bit of a stress for me.

To follow the riders, head here. Best of luck to everyone, and wishing them all tailwinds and dry days (and nights).

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  • Dotwatchers Assemble! Bikes of Blaenau 600
  • Premier Icon Rivett
    Full Member

    Some race this. The top 4 have already finished by Monday lunch!

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